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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 13:46 GMT
Madonna talks to Kirsty Wark
Kirsty Wark writes up her thoughts from somewhere over the Atlantic, while en route to interview Madonna for BBC Newsnight...

By Kirsty Wark
Presenter, BBC Newsnight

I left home in Glasgow at 4.45 this morning to begin the journey to New York for the only British interview with Madonna.

Kirsty Wark with Madonna

It's slightly bizarre, but by the time you read this, I'll be back from America and the first broadcast of the interview will have appeared on Wednesday's Newsnight.

Madonna agreed to be interviewed only at the last minute, though the request goes back several months, sent to her, unbeknownst to us, probably just as she had seen David Banda, the boy she's adopting, on some film footage shot in Malawi.

Short shrift

We were preparing for a new series of interviews for BBC Four, looking for six women whose work and artistry have made a cultural impact, partly through the media.

Love her or loathe her you cannot underestimate the impact she has had on music, or her iconic status
My producer Natalie Schaverien wrote to Madonna's office at the end of July, having heard she was going to Malawi, to work with her charity, Raising Malawi, which is building an orphanage.

We asked if we could film with her there for a few days. We got short shrift. We moved on and interviewed Janine di Giovanni, the war correspondent and writer, Alison Jackson, the photographer and filmmaker, who creates lookalikes, and the artist Tracey Emin, who will represent Britain at the Venice Biennale.

Media storm

But a few days ago, all hell broke loose when the press got hold of the story that Madonna had adopted a little boy, David Banda, allegedly fast-tracking the operation. The inference was that her celebrity and her money had allowed her to bend the rules.

Yohane Banda, father of the child being adopted by Madonna
The father of David Banda has been thrust into the media spotlight
Natalie had the presence of mind to fire off an e-mail the day David Banda was brought by Madonna's nanny to London and into a media storm.

Ten days later Madonna's PR phoned and said she would speak to me in New York.

We're recording a long interview, some of which will air on Newsnight and there will be a half hour programme on Sunday November 12th at 9pm on BBC Four.


So where will I start? It has to be with the adoption, but I want to make the interview far-reaching.

Love her or loathe her you cannot underestimate the impact she has had on music, or her iconic status.

I did my homework, helped in part by my 14 year-old son James, who I sometimes think knows Madge better than she knows herself.

Madonna has promised to learn the local dialect - is her husband going to follow suit?
Her office sent me a DVD of the film she made of her last tour I Want To Tell You a Secret, but I'll tell you a secret - I've seen it about 20 times, whether I wanted to or not.

James also guided me to various fan and gossip websites. It would be fair to say that before this furore, Malawi was not on everyone's Africa radar.

A country, ravaged by AIDS and TB, where of the 12 million strong population, there are reckoned to be up to a million orphans.

I know something about it because Scotland has had a long connection with Malawi, stretching back to the work of the Scottish missionary David Livingstone, and right now many Scottish schoolchildren are involved in projects there in schools and villages.

Also, the Scottish entrepreneur and millionaire Tom Hunter has joined forces with Bill Clinton, putting a hundred million dollars into the country to develop the economy and infrastructure over the next decade.

Bending the rules?

But why did Madonna adopt this child? Critics say she should have supported the birth father and his son in the country.

What would Madonna have done if the child had tested HIV positive?
But someone I spoke to recently, who knows Malawi well, told me the culture is such that a father would not raise a child on his own.

Did Madonna bend the rules? Or did the authorities bend the rules for her? I'm going to ask her to respond to one woman, Joyce Dean, a teaching assistant in York, originally from Aberdeenshire.

In an article she applauded Madonna's action, but is upset that it hasn't happened that way for her. She has been waiting for two years to bring an 11 year-old orphan, Caroline, to Britain and there are probably others in the same situation.

Does Madonna realise how difficult it is for people with neither celebrity nor money?

Also I'm interested to know what Madonna would have done had David Banda tested positive for HIV. It would have been a huge dilemma. And Madonna has promised to learn the local dialect. Is her husband going to follow suit?

Beyond that, I want to find out what she's up to next. I hear talk that she's optioned a book and is planning to turn it into a film which she will direct.

What will Guy Ritchie make of that? Is there a danger she might upstage him once too often?

Newsnight: Wednesday 1 November, 10.30pm on BBC TWO and ONLINE
Madonna Talks to Kirsty Wark: Sunday 12th November, 9pm BBC Four.

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